Health rights activists have warned that the country’s health sector is at risk of collapsing unless government puts in place strict measures to sustain it in the wake of increasing fatigue from donors.
The health sector is largely financed by development partners, with HIV and Aids enjoying the largest chunk of support where about 80 percent of the budget comes from partners.
Health and Rights Education (Hrep) executive director Maziko Matemba and Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe have warned that relying on donors to continuously fund such a critical sector is dangerous because “donors cannot sustain any programme”.
Globally, there is a movement encouraging domestic mobilisation of resources for health sectors with more focus on HIV and Aids.
In the wake of this, Matemba, in an interview on Thursday, said there is need for efficient use of resources and additional budget allocation to the health sector. He said this can be made possible through health insurance aspects and levies.
He said: “Most of our health interventions are financed by donors. In certain areas such as immunisations, almost 100 percent of the support comes from donors and this is not sustainable. We have to be ready in terms of financing the health sector because it is a very crucial sector.
“There are things like theft of drugs which are not auguring well with the donors even though they are still supporting us. People think the support will still be coming, but this may not be the case forever.”
Jobe, on the other hand, wondered why health is not given priority when it comes to the use of taxes.
He observed that since Malawi is still benefiting from donor support and Parliament-approved loans, there is need for the country to pump a lot of capital in the health sector.
Said Jobe: “We spend a lot of money when we refer cases to hospitals in other countries like South Africa and India. If we made some serious investment in health, we would be saving and making money.”
Reacting to the concerns, Minister of Health and Population Atupele Muluzi said in an interview his immediate priority is ensuring that the country does more with what it has to sustain the health sector.
He said: “Reduced support may come from certain quarters. However, we are in active discussion about more targeted support using multi-donor funds such as the Health Sector Joint Fund [HSJF] in a more effective manner.”
The minister hinted on the need for more innovation and exploration of new ways to generate extra finance for the health sector.
“Alongside this will be the need to begin reducing the cost burden on the existing health care system by investing more in health education and health outreach programmes. There are many diseases and illnesses that can be prevented and are currently a needless burden on our healthcare system,” he said.
Two years ago, some health stakeholders proposed several means of financing the sector including user fees—which were heavily criticised—and health insurance, levies and taxes. However, the proposed reforms are yet to take off the ground. n